The SmarK Rant for the Monday Night Wars–12.16.96

The SmarK 24/7 Rant for The Monday Night Wars – December 12 1996

– So back in 1996 at the time of this show, we’re coming off the shitty It’s Time PPV on the WWF side, and building up to the shitty Starrcade 96 PPV on the WCW side. And away we go…  (It’s Time was actually pretty decent, to be fair.) 

WCW Monday Nitro

HOUR #1! Not quite the most exciting hour on TV, but darn close!

– Live from Pensacola, FL

– Hosted by Tony & Larry, although as part of the upcoming nWo Nitro experiment, Bischoff and Dibiase immediately boot them out of the booth to continue seeing if fans will buy an all-nWo show. (Spoiler: They wouldn’t)

World TV title: Psychosis v. Lord Steven Regal.

(Whoa, that’s weird.  I’m pretty obsessive about always putting the champion first for title matches, and have been since I started.)  They trade wristlocks to start and Regal stretches him on the mat, using a couple of rather nasty armbar variations. We take a break as Bischoff and Dibiase totally ignore the match and drone on about how they’re taking over and 4 Life and stuff. Psychosis comes back as we return, hitting a spin kick and a kapo kick to send Regal to the floor, and follows with a tope con hilo. Back in, sunset flip gets two. He waits for Regal to stagger up, and then dropkicks him down again, before putting him on top and bringing him down with a rana for two. Man, this crowd is on coke or something, because they’re just popping for everything. (Considering it’s in Florida and I just finished watching Narcos on Netflix, it might not be hard to believe…) Small package gets two. Top rope legdrop gets two. Bischoff going on about Hogan and Piper and how Hogan was talking to Spielberg and how Piper can’t be the bigger icon because of his movie choices makes me want to reach through the screen and strangle someone. Regal comes back with a german suplex and pounds him on the mat, then locks in a rear naked choke, which is sold as a chinlock because Ken Shamrock didn’t debut until 1997. This one’s really hit the wall. Regal slugs away in the corner and gets a butterfly suplex for two. They fight on the top and Regal goes down first, and Psychosis comes down with a flying splash for two. Regal cradles for two. Psychosis with the backslide for two. Enzuigiri follows, but Regal blocks a flying headscissors and locks in the Regal Stretch for the submission at 10:29. Bit of a style clash, but they worked it out, as Randy Jackson would say. ***  (Yo dog, that’s a pretty dated reference.  And I mean, AS IF I would be watching American Idol…) 

– Big Bubba v. Chavo Guerrero.

Chavito was little more than a jobber at this point. Chavo misses a bodypress out of the corner, but dropkicks Bubba and they do the rocking horse spot on the ropes, which puts Bubba on the floor. Chavo tries to follow with a dive, but Bubba catches him and slams him on the floor. Back in, Bubba pounds away but Chavo blocks a powerbomb by punching him down for two. Butt-butt and senton get two. However, he walks into the Bossman Slam and gets pinned at 2:52.

– Masa Chono and Sonny Onoo join us for an interview, but in a SHOCKING SWERVE, Chono reveals an nWo shirt, which Bischoff and Dibiase actually give away beforehand.

Masa Chono v. Chris Jericho.

Jericho throws the spinkicks to put Chono down, but walks into a Yakuza kick, and Chono headbutts him down. Jericho comes back with a sunset flip for two, but Chono tosses him and they slug it out on the floor, with Chono not even flinching at the punches. Back in, Jericho keeps trying for a comeback but Chono won’t even sell for him, and Chono hits him with an atomic drop. Chono pounds away in the corner and blocks a blind charge from Jericho with a big boot, and goes up. Jericho brings him down with a superplex, which FINALLY gets Chono to sell something, and the spinkick gets two. Jericho misses a bodypress off the top but smacks Chono on the back on the way down for some reason, then charges and lands on the floor. I guess Chono is done selling for this match. Chono boots him as he gets back to the apron, which results in Jericho being hung by his foot in the ropes, and it’s a DQ at 5:48 as Chono won’t let him out of the ropes. There’s making someone look strong and there’s selfishly gobbling up someone’s offense, and this was the latter. *1/4

– And as if we haven’t heard enough about Piper v. Hogan this week already, let’s take you back to LAST week, as Piper fights off the nWo with the help of Kevin Greene.

– The Horsemen, minus Benoit, join us for an interview, and it’s another one of those weird ones where they spend the whole time bashing Benoit and Woman.

– WCW Cruiserweight title: Dean Malenko v. David Sammartino.

(See, champion listed first, AS IT SHOULD BE.) Didn’t even know that David showed up in WCW at this point. He definitely didn’t get his father’s size. They trade hammerlocks to start and take it to the mat for a bit, with not much going on. They trade small packages and David gets a backslide for two, but Dean rolls him over with a double chickenwing for the pin at 2:55. Never got going. 1/2*

HOUR #2!

– Hosted by Tony, Mike and Bobby, so they’ll be talking about how great Piper is while ignoring the matches, instead of talking about how great Hogan is while ignoring the matches.

– Juice Train v. Jerry Flynn.

LIGHTNING FOOT~! See, he had a career before becoming Goldberg’s personal jobber. His lightning feet don’t work against the Train, who powers Flynn down and dances around. Big splash and corner splash follow, but Flynn uses his LIGHTNING FOOT and a clothesline to come back. He tells fans at ringside to shut up, so you know he means business now. Ice Train slugs back as Tony begins hyping the infamous nWo Souled Out PPV in January. Double clothesline, but Train takes him down with an anklelock for the submission at 3:22. Truly this is the most exciting hour on TV. 1/2*

– Syxx fulfills the only purpose he’s good at, introducing the bigger stars, and brings out the Outsiders. They want the Faces of Fear TONIGHT. Don’t I get a vote, because I’d really rather not see that.

– A Sting video package tells us nothing.

Rey Mysterio v. Bobby Eaton.

These are some oddball matches tonight. Eaton slugs him down to start and faceplants him, then follows with a backbreaker for two. Mysterio bails and Eaton follows with a dive off the apron, but he hits the railing and Rey hits him with a suicide dive. They fight to the apron and Rey brings him in with an awkward victory roll for two and follows with a spinkick. Springboard dropkick and springboard moonsault get two, as I half-expected the ref to springboard in between each count. Eaton comes back with a clothesline for two and we hit the chinlock. Eaton goes up with a flying knee, and that gets two. I don’t get why a flying knee only gets two, but a flying legdrop can finish. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the kneedrop to be the finisher? Bobby goes up to finish, but Rey catches him with the rana for the pin at 4:57. Another style clash, but decent for the little time given. **

– And now, the highlight of MY week, as Lee Marshall is on the road in Macon for the 1-800-COLLECT Road Report. I’m surprised he can remember the number.

– Kevin Sullivan v. Arn Anderson.

They immediately brawl on the floor and Arn swings and misses with a chair before they fight into the ring. Sullivan slugs him in the corner and tosses him out again, and they head into the crowd. Back to the ring and the ref gets bumped, and we get the nW…er, Dungeon of Doom run-in, with Hugh Morrus and Big Bubba distracting Arn long enough for Sullivan to hit Arn with a wooden chair for the pin at 3:48. Mongo makes the save long after he would have done some good. Thanks, man, way to earn your keep. *  (You’ll note Arn’s involvement is becoming less and less, with only short matches now as he approaches the end of his career.) 

– Rick Steiner v. Sting.

It’s the nWo Sting who comes to the ring (easily distinguished by being the one CHEWING GUM), but the real Sting follows him out and takes him down. What, you expected them to deliver on an advertised match? What show have you been watching?

– Hollywood Hogan joins us that Tony notes that “We’ve heard that music one time too many this week.” I shouldn’t need to remind you how I feel about shoot comments that aren’t supposed to be shoot comments. But I will: I love them. This is yet another ENDLESS Hogan promo about how he’s great and Piper and Savage are old and broken down and cowards.

– The Outsiders v. The Faces of Fear.

Hey, let’s hear that music ONE MORE TIME. Big brawl to start and Hall clotheslines Meng to set up the Edge, but Barbarian saves with a big boot. Nash gives him his own big boot, but Big Bubba runs in on behalf of the Faces…and turns nWo for another SHOCKING SWERVE. And it’s the nWo Finish, a subset of the Sportz Entertainment Finish, at 0:90 or so, which is where everyone runs into the ring for a big brawl when they don’t have any other way to finish things. Scott Norton comes out and turns nWo on Ice Train as an afterthought, which is pretty appropriate. Sting comes out and everyone stops fighting, but then he changes his mind and leaves.  (You’ll note how quickly the awesome nWo angle has started going off the rails at this point.) 

– You will note that out of three advertised matches (Sullivan v. Anderson, Outsiders v. Faces of Fear, and Rick Steiner v. Sting) the only one they actually delivered on was Sullivan v. Anderson, and even then it was only 3 minutes long. That’s why RAW started building an audience again. And speaking of which…

WWF Monday Night RAW

– Live from Tampa, FL

– Your hosts are Vince & Jerry & Jim.

– Bret Hart comes out, the night after losing to Sid in a World title match, and starts the slow build of his heel turn, complaining about Shawn Michaels interfering in his title match and costing him the belt. Bret sounds a little bitter here, but I’m sure he’ll get over it.  (In the Observer, Dave notes that it’s basically a done deal that Bret is winning the Rumble and he can’t possibly imagine any other title match but Shawn v. Bret.  Thanks, Vince Russo!)

– Vader v. Steve Austin.

By contrast, this was part of the slow build to Austin’s face turn, as this is a “toughman” match, which is code for heel v. heel. Vader throws hands to start and pulverizes Austin in the corner, then brings him out with a short clothesline. Austin comes back with the Thesz Press and slugs away, sending Vader running to the floor, and he follows with an axehandle off the apron. Crowd sentiment clearly makes Austin the face here. We take a break and return with Vader in control after sending him into the stairs, and Vader just beats the hell out of him on the floor, and tosses him into the front row. Austin slugs him back to ringside and they head back into the ring, but Vader pounds him down and goes up with the pump splash. Austin moves and goes low to stop it, and then they exchange punches again before Vader dumps him over the top. Bret Hart, impartial commentator, leaves his position to attack Austin and puts him in the Sharpshooter to draw the DQ at 4:35. Fun while it lasted. **

– The Godwinns v. The Insiders.

Razor throws a toothpick at PIG and gets dumped as a result. Back in, PIG grabs a headlock and brings in HOG, who slams PIG on Ramon and starts working on the arm. Diesel comes in and gets a corner clothesline, but HOG slugs him down and the Godwinns go back to the arm again. Cheapshot from Ramon turns the tide, however, and Ramon grabs an armbar. Way to capitalize, there, bad guy. Big Daddy Kane adds a big boot, but HOG fights back with a lariat, and it’s hot tag PIG. Everyone gets slammed, and HOG blocks a Razor’s Edge with a Slop Drop. However, Diesel distracts the ref and then lays out PIG with the jackknife powerbomb, and puts Ramon on top for the pin at 6:22. Kick, kick, punch, punch. *1/4

– Meanwhile, Sid is still the master and ruler of the world.

– Meanwhile, Shawn lets us know that he never makes excuses when he loses a title. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

– Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon v. TL Hopper & Dr. X.

Yes, they really had a masked guy named Dr. X in 1996, you didn’t fall asleep and wake up in 1956. (Wait, how would that work,exactly?)  X is Dr. Tom Pritchard, if you care. This is joined in progress as Furnas is working on Hopper’s arm, and gets a spinebuster for two. Hopper is the “wrestling plumber,” aka Dirty White Boy Tony Anthony at his lowest career point, and that’s saying something. LaFon comes in with a suplex on Dr. X, but Furnas cleans house with dropkicks and powerslams Hopper for two. Was that a hot tag? LaFon finishes Hopper with a cobra suplex at 3:07 shown. 1/2* They cared so much that they hacked off the first few minutes in favor of the Shawn interview.

– And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, as Sable takes on Jerry Lawler LIVE in the Karate Fighters tournament final. Sable wins that one pretty handily, but it’s just a setup for a brawl between Marc Mero and HHH. They run off to the back after Goldust attacks HHH as well in the midst of his face turn, leaving Lawler in the ring with Goldust. This sets the stage for a historic interview, as Lawler asks Goldust if he’s “queer”, and Goldust confirms that he’s not. Marlena/Terri heads out to make goo-goo eyes with Goldust to confirm this. This had Vince Russo written ALL over it.

– An idiotic Christmas carol about Sid wastes some time.

Billy Gunn v. Bart Gunn.

Billy is dressed in more of an urban cowboy motif, while Bart has the classic look. Bart charges and hits boot, but comes back with a lariat for two. And we take a break. We return with the announcers lamenting how this feud is tearing the (fake) family apart, while Billy grabs a chinlock. They show their wives in the crowd, although I wouldn’t put it past them to lie about that, too. (Maybe it was Chuck Palumbo?)  Billy pounds away in the corner and goes back to the chinlock, really refining the shitty style that would carry him to the top of the JTTS ladder in later years. Bart comes back with a hot shot, but Billy isn’t moving and the ref stops the match at 3:30, because THIS IS REAL and everything else is fake, except for the segment you happen to be watching at any given moment. Sadly, this was a work and Billy’s career continued on for many awful years to come. Really, a serious neck injury would have made the 90s much easier to bear. This also had Vince Russo written ALL over it. This whole thing went nowhere and Billy would regroup and emerge as the dominant force of the 21st Century, ROCKABILLY, a few months later.

(Dave’s explanation of the angle:  “They are selling the Billy Gunn angle as if he’s confined to a wheelchair due to neck injuries. Bart Gunn was on Live Wire all apologetic. It sounds to me like they are re-doing the Sandman/Tommy Dreamer angle from a few years ago where the babyface is all apologetic about the injury, only at the end to be done in because the heel was faking the injury all along. They were pushing how Billy had a wife and two children, which is funny only because just a few weeks earlier they were still playing up the angle about Billy being obsessed with Sunny and pushed the idea of a romance between the two of them most of the summer. I know that the women who played Billy’s wife was actually a front office employee and not really his wife. Not sure about the role of Bart’s wife.”) 

The Pulse:

BAD week for wrestling here, but RAW had a couple of fairly memorable angles to light up an otherwise dull live show, while Nitro began doing what it always did: Hotshotting nWo turns to draw ratings and deflect attention away from backing out on their advertised matches. But since neither promotion actually delivered their advertised main event this week, we’ll call it a draw.